Caregiving

A Stirring Tea Party Brings People Together

It took us an hour to prepare for our festive tea party and we all enjoyed every moment of it. Jennifer Walker, RN, BSN, Clinical Community Liaison, Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care, knows how to throw a party. She brought pastel table cloths, a charming complement of paisley-printed cups and plates, along with tiered cookie holders.  

For the ladies, she offered colorful fascinators (small hats you can clip into your hair) and bright boas. For the men, she had bow ties and top hats. She also brought the ingredients for tea time sandwiches and a variety of cheeses, veggies and meats. Kathi Michaels and Heidi Underwood from Leawood Gardens, and Lainey Berry, from the Law Office of Love & Blomquist, generously provided an array of baked treats, including legendary cookies from McClain’s Bakery and delectable lemon squares. 

Our guest speaker, Emilie Jackson from Emilie’s French Teas, shared information about the international history, social rituals, and health benefits that come with sipping a cup of tea. After her talk, everyone set to work creating cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches, with the crusts cut off, of course.  We were able to smell several different teas and each person chose a favorite to savor. The food and drink were delicious but even better were the conversations. Each table got into discussions about tea, coffee, life, and more.  One guest enjoyed a tete a tete in French with Emilie, who is originally from France. 

The gathering was so much fun and so engaging, with all the aromas, tastes, and textures, that none of us wanted to leave.  It took us even longer to clean up after the stirring tea party, because we had to help eat the leftovers!

Click on this link for the inside story on our tea party: Memory Cafe, Tea Party

Here are a few of our favorite tea quotes:

Where there’s tea there’s hope. Arthur Wing Pinero

If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are too heated, it will cool you; If you are depressed, it will cheer you; If you are excited, it will calm you.  William Ewart Gladstone

I like the pause that tea allows. Waris Ahluwalia

A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water. Eleanor Roosevelt

Please join us for our next cafe when the great Nick Haines brings us the inside story on KC local news. We can’t wait!

Our team, ready for tea

Thanks to our sponsors:

The Kanas City Public Library

The Alzheimer’s Association

The Creativity Connection, Deborah Shouse and Ron Zoglin

Kansas City Hospice and Palliative Care

Arts & Aging KC

KC FilmFest

Prairie Elder Care

The Villages of Jackson Creek Memory Care

Dennis and Carol McCurdy, Community Volunteers

 

Please email Deborah at myinfo@pobox.com if you need additional information.

And, we hope you can join us for our next events.

 

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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One-Minute Tips to Boost Your Happiness

I am thrilled to be a contributor to Chicken Soup’s new book, The Empowered Woman. I’m going to be featured on publisher Amy Newmark’s podcast on May 25, where I talk to her about my “empowered” story and about the dementia journey.  Click here to listen to the podcast.  Amy is very inspiring and I wanted to share some of her One-Minute Tips to Boost Your Happiness,

Speaking of empowered women, Amy Newmark left her high-powered career as a Wall Street analyst to take over the Chicken Soup series. After years of immersing herself in true stories of miracles, lessons learned, and hopes fulfilled, she wrote her own book,Simply Happy. Here are some of her “One-Minute Tips to Boost Your Happiness.”

Amy’s Insights for Care Partners

Counting Blessings Adds Up to Happiness

“The gateway to happiness is counting your blessings,” Amy says. “If you’re not grateful for what is in your life, how can you be happy?”

Scientific studies have proven that people who are actively grateful are happier, healthier, and more productive. Plus, they get along better with family members, colleagues, and others.

“You can easily learn gratitude,” Amy says.

To start, each day jot down three things for which you’re grateful. Strive for three different ideas each day. At the end of the month, you’ll have documented nearly a hundred blessings.

“Writing and speaking your gratefulness changes your perception,” Amy says. “You start looking for good things during the day. You can share your blessings with your partner and encourage him to consider his own.”

Some people drop the blessings into a box, and then read them at the end of the day or the end of the month.

Smiling Serves You

Smile even when you don’t feel like it. Often, when you smile, people smile back. This boosts everyone’s spirits and energy. If they don’t give you a grin, it doesn’t hurt you.

“Your smile will change the way people react to you,” Amy says.

Zipping from Zero to 60 Brings Joy

Set a timer for 60 seconds and zip through a task you’ve been putting off. File the insurance policy that sprawls across the dining room table. Unload the dishwasher. Take your vitamins.

“Doing even one of those tasks every day will lighten your spirits,” Amy says.

Dropping Perfection and Embracing Your Own Abilities

Abandon your pursuit of perfection and strive for your own version of excellence.

“When you try to be perfect, you can’t get a lot done,” Amy says. “For most of us, it’s better to do five things at 90 percent than one thing at 100 percent.”

I love Amy’s final piece of wisdom:

“Treat yourself nicely,” she says. “Use the fragrant soap you save for guests. Indulge in a rich bit of good chocolate or a fresh crisp apple. Put the good sheets you save for company on your own bed.

Give yourself a tiny pleasure every day.”

For more happiness boosts, read Simply Happy. 

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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What They Don’t tell You About Dementia: A Guest Post by Laurie Scherrer

Laurie Scherrer is a light in the universe. I met her on the radio, when she co-hosted the ground-breaking program Alzheimer’s Speaks, with Lori La Bey. I was instantly inspired by Laurie’s warmth, honesty, humor, and insights. Each time I talk to her, I have fun and I learn from her. Recently, I asked her, “How can I support you in the wonderful advocacy work you are doing?” Laurie answered, “You can repost this blog, What They Don’t Tell You about Dementia.”

Laurie’s post is not just inspiring: it could be life-changing for someone who is newly diagnosed with dementia. After reading it, you’ll want to subscribe to Laurie’s blog. 

What They Don’t tell You About Dementia: by Laurie Scherrer, DementiaDaze.com 

When I was diagnosed with dementia (Early On-Set Alzheimer’s and Frontotemporal Degeneration) the doctors told me and my husband:

  1. My working days were over
  2. I needed to “Get my affairs in order and see an attorney”
  3. The time would come when I wouldn’t recognize my loved ones
  4. For any additional information we should go to the Alzheimer’s Association Website
  5. I may experience “sun-downing” in the late afternoons
  6. Come back in six months to see how rapidly you have progressed

What the doctors SHOULD have told us:

  1. There are many things that can aggravate or enhance the confusion and agitation that comes with dementia. With observation and patience, you may be able to recognize what triggers these symptoms. For example noise, stress, over-stimulation or lack of sleep. These triggers are not the same for everyone.
  2. Once you recognize the triggers you may be able to find ways to lessen their impact. For example, use earplugs when in a store or restaurant to reduce the noise, keep gatherings small to avoid over-stimulation, and when needed take an afternoon nap.
  3. The more independence you give up and allow other people to take care of – the more dependent you will become on others. Change your thought process from “I can’t do this anymore” to “How can I accomplish this task (what changes or modifications can we make to assist me).”
  4. On days when you are using a lot of cognitive reserve your symptoms may be strong (usually in the afternoon). This is your brain saying it is tired and needs a break.  Try listening to some music or taking a nap.
  5. It is OK to take some time to grieve for your losses and accept that life will change. Most people need to experience this after diagnosis and again as their abilities change. In addition to grief, you may experience shock, anger, denial and sadness. These are normal reactions that can help you come to terms with your disease and hopefully help you to move on.
  6. Get involved with others with dementia as much as possible. There are a number of groups that offer video chats with other people living with dementia so you can socialize, ask questions and encourage each other.  dementiamentors.org offers a mentor program so you can have weekly chats with someone living with dementia.
  7. Stay active and socialize with old friends and new. Once you curl up into yourself it is hard to get out.  Enjoy life, friends, family and activities for as long as you can.
  8. Build your passion to fight back! Sometimes it is the passion within us that drives us to continue fighting.  Get involved in advocacy work to educate about dementia. Contact Dementia Action Alliance at daanow.org to get started.
  9. You will have good moments when you feel “normal” and think you should go back to work and you will have bad moments when the world is a fog (dementia daze zone). You may feel confused and disoriented and find it difficult to think.  There will be times when nothing seems to make sense and you can’t remember how to do things and then the fog will go away (at least for awhile).  It’s OK to admit you are having a bad day.
  10. Dementia is more than memory loss. You may experience problems with your balance, lights flickering in your eyes, hallucinations, develop fears, or smell things that aren’t really there. Don’t be frightened, keep track of any changes or strange feelings to see how often they occur
  11. Dementia can progress fast, but in most cases it is a long slow progression. You may want to keep your affairs in order, but by implementing changes and strategies you will be able to overcome many obstacles and live a beneficial and happy life for some time.

Since I’m sure your doctor said about the same thing as mine, I hope you find this helpful.  Now go enjoy life – Live, Love and figure out how to make adjustments to over come your obstacles.

My motto is: I don’t want just to survive – – I want to live and thrive!

Love & Laughter,

Laurie

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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76 Trombones Star in June’s Movies and Memories Event

In The Music Man, people flock to hear about the idea for a band. They imagine the shiny instruments, the colorful uniforms, and the scruffy boys in their small Iowa town transformed into revered members of a marching band.

In the Movies and Memories showing of this iconic film, life imitated art. During intermission, the Dirty Force Brass Band marched down the aisles of the Truman Forum, playing a zesty jazz number. People from the first floor of the library raced down the stairs, wanting to get closer to the music. Many of them stayed to watch the second half of the movie!

This was the longest movie we’ve shown at our series and it was a big success. What a treat to see it on the big screen and to enjoy a very young and adorable Ronny Howard as Winthrope, the agile and the charismatic Robert Preston wooing the melodic Shirley Jones, as Marian the Librarian. And is there anything better that seeing a movie partially set in a library while you’re sitting in a library.!

You can click on this link to get the flavor of the event:

Movies and Memories: The Music Man

“We loved the music,” one family told us.

“This is my daughter’s favorite musical,” a mom told us, smiling at her four-year-old daughter. 

“All this is free?” one of our guests said, relishing her popcorn and cookie.

Every two months, the Movies and Memories treats the Kansas City community to a dementia and family friend film, along with live music and delicious snacks, and a surprise at the end. Everyone who attended was excited to take home various kinds of colorful noise makers.   #

 

 

 

Please join us for our next dementia-friendly events:

Mark your calendars for these upcoming events:

JULY

Tu 17 – Memory Café: Tea Party

AUGUST

Tu 21 – Memory Café: Nick Haines from KCPT

Su 26 – Movies & Memories: Around the World / KC Boys Choir

SEPTEMBER

Tu 18 – Memory Café: Nelson-Atkins

OCTOBER

Tue 16 – Memory Café: Wornall House

Su 21 – Movies & Memories: Moana, uke players, hula dancers

NOVEMBER

* Wed 14 – Memory Café: Dog & Pony & Pig Show

DECEMBER

Su 9 – Movies & Memories: holiday movie shorts & cookie decorating

Tu 18 – Memory Café: Santa & Symphony

Thanks to all our teammates who help make these gatherings happen: 

The Kanas City Public Library

The Alzheimer’s Association

The Creativity Connection, Deborah Shouse and Ron Zoglin

Kansas City Hospice and Palliative Care

Arts & Aging KC

KC FilmFest

Prairie Elder Care

The Villages of Jackson Creek Memory Care

Dennis and Carol McCurdy, Community Volunteers

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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Connected in the Land of Dementia: Easy Ideas and Free Events

The more research we read, the more people who are living with dementia we listen to, the more care partners we consult, the more we understand the power of keeping engaged, inspired, and connected in the land of dementia.
Along with Jennifer Walker, RN, BSN, Clinical Community Liaison from Kansas City Hospice, we’ll be sharing ideas for staying connected on Wednesday June 27, at 6:00 at Santa Marta.
If you’re interested, please join us for this free event.  We’re also including information on two free dementia-friendly gatherings happening in June in KC.
 
Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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KC Memory Cafe Creates The Sounds of Music: A Visit from the Kansas City Symphony

If there’s anything more fun than a one-man band, it’s a one-woman orchestra. On May 15, Margaret Halloin graced the cafe with an astonishing array of instruments. She invoked our inner Itzhak when she introduced us to the versatility of the violin. One moment she used a series of chords to transport us to a hoedown; then she built the tension by creating the sounds of of a chase scene.  We were mellow with the cello and sliding cool with the trombone. We could all feel the beat as she tapped and shook a variety of percussion instruments. And then, she invited all of us to play
Instantly the room transformed from a quietly listening group of adults to a boisterous band of emerging musicians. One couple beat on a drum together. A woman tentatively held the violin. When Margaret helped her coax a sound of out it, she burst into delighted laughter. People tried the cello, the gong, the bongos, and the French horn. Even better than the sounds of music were the spurts of laughter and the lively conversations. After our chaotic impromptu concert, we gathered in small groups to talk about the music in our lives. One man had been a professional pianist. Several people had played in marching bands. Some had never touched an instrument. Until today. 
“Music is one thing that is universal and that brings us all together,” our cafe facilitator, Jennifer Walker, RN, BSN, told us.  
We all applauded. We had gone from a one-woman orchestra to a 50-person orchestra in a matter of an hour and we were feeling energized, happy, and filled with the sounds of music.
Here are some tips for creating your own instrumental experience:
  • Invite several musical kids/friends/relatives to come over, tell you about their instrument, and help you make a sound on it. 
  • Have fun playing imaginary instruments along with a big band or big orchestra music. 
  • Listen to favorite instrumentals and talk about any memories evoked.
  • Look at pictures of various instruments and share stories. Ask open-ended questions with no right or wrong answers, such as, “ What do you think about the piano?” “What are some of your favorite instruments?”
 Many thanks to the Kansas City Symphony for coming to play with us. 
A special thanks to Margaret Halloin and to Stephanie Brimhall, Education Manager. For more information about the Kansas City  Symphony, please visit: http://www.kcsymphony.org
For more information about the KC Memory Cafe, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/kcmemorycafe/

Please join us for our next events: 

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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Celebrating our Mothers 

If my mother were still alive, I would be taking her roses and chocolate this Mother’s Day. She would be delighted and her delight would magnify when my daughters and her great-grandchildren arrived. Love is such a beautiful glue, such a simple and strong way to stay connected. I wanted to share this story from Love in the Land of Dementia, as a way of celebrating our mothers.

 The Woman She Was

My friend Karen gives me a gift: she says, “Tell me about your mother.”

We are sitting in a quiet mid-afternoon café and I let the question sink into me.

When friends occasionally ask me, “How is your mother doing?” I have different answers, depending on the situation. If we are in one of those conversations that are like confetti in brisk wind, I say, “She’s okay.”

If we are sitting across from each other and my friend is looking right at me, I answer, “She’s pretty deep into Alzheimer’s.”

“Does she recognize you?” she might ask.

“No, but she may recognize I am a person she likes,” I answer.

That usually ends that conversation.

But “Tell me about your mother,” is an invitation I don’t usually get.

“What would you like to know?” I ask.

She stirs her iced mocha. “Whatever you want to tell me,” she says softly. “I would like to know about her life and her interests.”

Since my mother has been in the nursing home with Alzheimer’s, I have seldom talked about the person she used to be. Occasionally my father and I reminisce about family vacations and outings. I sometimes ask Dad questions about our growing up days and the early days of their courtship. But I rarely think about the woman I knew all my life, the mother, grandmother, artist, gardener, compassionate friend, avid reader, bird-watcher, early morning walker, lemon-meringue pie baker. That woman is gone and I have spent a lot of energy learning to know and appreciate the woman who now commandeers her body.

As I consider what I want to tell Karen, I remember visiting my mom’s best friend, Bel, in California when I was a teenager. Bel, who was spunky and adventurous in a way that seemed so different from my conservative mother, drove me from Berkeley to the small resort where I would work as a chambermaid for the summer.

“Do you know how I met your mom?” she asked me, as we drove down the winding roads, past fragrant stands of eucalyptus trees.

“In Iceland, during the World War II,” I said. I had heard stories of the two of them taking a break from their work in the hospital by skiing, then stopping for a soak in a hot springs.

“No, we met earlier in Chicago. We were both nurses working the twelve-hour night shift. The hospital had a room with a couple of bunk beds so we could rest on breaks. One night I walked in there and heard the most heart-breaking sobbing. It was Frances, crying her eyes out. I asked her what was wrong and she said, ‘Nothing.’”

I smiled. That sounded like Mom, never wanting to admit anything was wrong.

“Then I asked her again and she sobbed out that her husband Sam had died six months ago from pneumonia. She was so sad she didn’t know if she could go on. A bunch of other nurses and I were going to Florida for a short vacation and I persuaded your mother to join us. But as it turned out, we never went; a week later I decided to join the Army and I encouraged her to come along. We’ve been best friends ever since.”

When I heard this story at the age of seventeen, I was too young to fathom my mother’s grief and despair. By the time I told Karen the story, I had some sense of what my mother must have gone through.

“Your Mom was really brave, to serve in the Army during wartime,” Karen says.

I feel a little swell of pride. Mom’s tales of traveling in the darkest night on the troop ship, with bombs falling nearby, were so familiar I had never considered her bravery and courage.

Now I tell Karen how my father, encouraged by Bel’s husband, wrote Mom a letter, telling her he was ready to marry a nice Jewish girl. Was she interested? Was she available?

After some correspondence, Mom surprised herself by agreeing to meet him in Chicago. At the end of the week, my father asked her to marry him. She considered the offer for three weeks and accepted. Their whirlwind romance was fueled by practicality.

“What a great story,” Karen says. “Your mother must be an amazing woman.”

Sparked by Karen’s interest, I let myself feel my love for my mother as she used to be. I am in tears by the time our conversation ends.

“Thank you for asking me about my mother,” I say to Karen.

“Your stories make me want to call my own mom and hear her stories again.”

As I drive home, I think of more “mom” stories to share with my children and my brother. I see myself, along with my brother and father, as the carrier of my mother’s sacred legacy. I imagine myself tenderly fanning the embers, adding dry leaves and crumbled paper, creating a blaze with each memory. I realize I don’t have to give up Mom’s old self: I can be her historian and her scribe, carrying her stories with me, and making sure they live on.

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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KC Memory Cafe: Great Weather Information Inspires Great Conversations

Karli Ritter is a self-described “weather nerd.” When this Fox 4 meteorologist finished her lively talk at April’s KC Memory Cafe, we all had a bit of that “weather nerd” fever in us. We listened intently as Karli described her early morning routine, up at 4:30 a.m., studying the weather maps and data so she could formulate a forecast. She detailed the complexities of being an integral part of a five-hour show: she actually appears on TV 90 times during the Kansas City Fox morning show! Her talk reminded us that great weather information inspires great conversations.

Karli has a love for storms and we were delighted with our “tornado” experience, courtesy of the Kansas City Public Library staff. We used a special coupler to link one empty liter bottle with one half full with water. Then we shook and turned it upside down and voila! a little tunnel tornado formed in the water! Each person was fascinated by this experiment. That led us to a conversation about personal weather experiences. Our attendees had gone through hurricanes, earthquakes, dust storms, tornadoes, nor’easter’s and much more.

Our discussion continued on the way out, with guests describing the varied weather in the Kansas Flint Hills, rainbows they’d seen, family members who loved forecasting the weather, and long hot summers and long cold winters.  

To watch our weather wonders, click here.

Bringing the weather home.

To start a weather conversation in your own family or community, use music as a catalyst. Play songs such as: You Are My Sunshine, Stormy Weather, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, The Sunny Side of the Street, Let It Snow. After each song, ask an open-ended question. “What do you like about snow?” Or,” What seasons do you like most?” Or “Have you ever been in a really big storm?” Or,”What is your favorite kind of weather?”

You can also play iconic movie clips that feature weather, such as the joyous tap dancing scene in Singing in the Rain, or the tornado scene in The Wizard of Oz. 

Dramatic weather photos and pictures can also trigger memories and comments. 

Thanks to our Cafe Team and thanks for those who visited.

Our next adventure: May 15, 10:30 to 12:00, Plaza Library

Music to Our Ears: The Kansas City Symphony Brings Us Note-worthy Instruments

You’ve heard them as part of the orchestra. Now you’ll be meeting selected instruments first-hand, as the Symphony’s Margaret Halloin joins us for this delightful interactive session. Enjoy refreshments and interesting conversations as we learn more about the sounds of music.

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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Movies and Memories: Laughter Triumphs Over Weather

It’s a Sunday morning in early April and we were excited about our Movies and Memories laughter program that afternoon at 2:00.

Then, the unthinkable happened. It started to snow, blanketing the daffodils and tulips with just enough flakes to make people want to cozy up at home. 

What did we do? Laugh, of course.

Laughter was the theme of our April program and we had excerpts from the inestimable Mr. Bean to anchor our program.

As Emily from the Kansas City Public Library, Plaza Branch,  made our popcorn and other library staff readied the technology, we accepted the fact that we might have only our intrepid volunteers in the audience. We all vowed to have a great time anyway.

Musician Richelle Basgall regaled us with songs and stories and our guests began to arrive.  Soon we had about 30 people who ignored the weather and were ready for fun. And fun we had. One of our volunteers brought us sumptuous cookies and small cakes. The aroma of fresh popcorn warmed us all and we laughed our way through a hilarious clip of Mr. Bean playing miniature golf. Then we passed out jokes, which we laughingly shared with each other. (What kind of sandwiches do astronauts eat: Launch meat! Why did the oil painting get sent to jail? It was framed!)

After watching Mr. Bean’s laundromat escapades, we had a laughter yoga session. We didn’t have to worry about traditional physical yoga postures—laughter yoga includes clapping, gestures, playfulness, and breathing. Everyone was a hearty laugher and we were all relaxed and smiling as we watched Mr. Bean’s horror as he tried to cope with raw oysters at a fancy restaurant.

Our ending surprise was a delicious way to take Mr. Bean home— gourmet jelly beans!!

Click here for a short video experience. 

Stay tuned for our next Movies and Memories event in August!

Want to have a movies and memories event right in your own home?

Here are a few tips:

If you’d like to make this an intergenerational experience, select a movie or clips you all might enjoy.

Choose a time of day when the person living with dementia will have good energy.

Get your favorite movie treats ready.

Create times to pause and chat about what you’ve seen. 

Print out simple jokes as a great way to spread the laughter.

If you wish, offer a surprise at the end, either something that reminds you to laugh or smile. And if you like sweets, our jelly beans were a huge hit! With all those flavors, you have a lot to talk about!

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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The Power of Play in the Dementia Journey

Josh Rice, a theatre maker and teaching artist,  discovered the power of play in the dementia journey when he was still in graduate school.  As part of a school project, he partnered with a senior living community on a therapeutic puppetry and improv-based program for people living with dementia.

Together, Josh and the seniors designed and made puppets, and created performances that included songs, personal stories, and comedy. As he worked with the new artists, he noticed people were using their puppets to tell stories. They expressed emotions and they enjoyed the chance to play and have fun. Staff applauded the participants’ short-term memory gains and tactile improvements.

“Plus, we were creating exciting work and performing for people,” Josh says.

Puppetry

One afternoon, a woman who was having a difficult day burst into the puppetry classroom. She was non-verbal but acted out aggressively in a way that could have potentially agitated others. As Josh and the students were rehearsing, she walked in and before she could disrupt the class, Josh made eye contact with her, and gently touched her shoulder. He quietly talked to her and invited her to join in or sit and watch. Within minutes she calmed down.

“I put a puppet in her hand and all of a sudden her language came back. It was like a switch had been turned on,” Josh says.  This woman filled him with hope and inspired him. “I want people to understand that people who are living with dementia sometimes need us to be patient and keep giving them chances,” he says.

Being in the Moment

Josh knew the potential power of theatrical play and experimented with improv sessions for people living with dementia. The experiment worked.

“For improv, you have to listen and react,” Josh says.  “The past or future doesn’t matter; it’s all about the present moment.”

He created a safe, nurturing, and creative atmosphere, offering structured improvisations, and invited his new improv team to play.

“They loved it and it was a thrill to watch them discovering new things and coming up with creative dialogues,” Josh says. “Play is an integral part of our lives and most of us need more of it.”

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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